An anonymous activist at the recent Shell action in Cambridge shares their first-hand experience of their arrest.
I was arrested at 15:48 on 21.02.20 in the Shell Petrol Station on Newnham Road, Cambridge on suspicion of criminal damage.
…Not exactly how I expected or planned my trip to Cambridge to go, but that’s what happened and, despite being the youngest arrestee at that action by about 6 years, I do not regret it.
Despite knowing about the climate and ecological emergency for over 30 years (as we showed by sticking Shell’s climate reports onto the petrol station with treacle), Shell continues to contribute to the deaths and displacements of people every day in the Global South. The corporation reaps the benefits of their unacceptable exploitation of people and planet.
My arrest was a bit strange and I felt so unprepared during the entire process, despite being trained in NVDA and even trained to facilitate NVDA training. During my arrest, legal observers were allowed nowhere near, and the police liaison who was allowed nearby was told I would be taken to a different station than the one I ended up in. I was detained for a few hours but my detention was not authorised when I got to the check-in desk, meaning I was dearrested and held on a voluntary basis in an interview room until my dad arrived.
At 18:56, in the interview room, having been dearrested but waiting for my dad and a solicitor, I wrote in my notes app: “This is terrifying and intimidating and I feel so vulnerable. I’m scared for my dad to get here and I’m scared for my interview. My fingers are sweaty and my heart is beating so fucking fast. I didn’t mean to end up here but I’m also kinda proud…”
I was lucky to be flooded with support and reassurance from my friends, despite being on the opposite side of the country. As soon as I was given back my belongings, I messaged my amazing friends Patrick and Lucy who responded instantly with compassion and empathy; “Call me if it gets scary”, and “We think you’re a hero”.
The vast majority of people who are arrested have a much rougher time than me and I was insanely fortunate and privileged to receive kindness from all the police officers who dealt with me; as an institutionally racist, classist, transphobic, and ableist institution, the police certainly do not treat everyone in that way.
It’s all too easy to feel like you always need to do more. I sat in the police station wishing I’d been arrested for gluing myself onto the roof or something else “cool” like that. But we are all just doing what we can. No one should ever feel like they need to get arrested in order to have an impact because not everyone can get arrested; just turning up, empowering other people’s voices, or supporting someone else’s arrest makes an impact.
I’m saying this as someone who still feels like I’m not doing enough – nobody is adapted to deal with the climate crisis so we are prone to feeling hopeless and insignificant. But we need to remember that we’re all doing a good job just by caring enough to try.
No, my parents weren’t supportive of my arrest. And I don’t blame them. Obviously it’s hard for them to wrap their heads around the huge issue that is climate and ecological breakdown, and the toxic system that we live in doesn’t make that any easier. Their main concern is keeping me safe and, to them, that means not letting me get arrested, even though that’s not what it means to me as someone who will have to grow up on this planet.
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